Setting Up Remote Operators Part 1 of 2 – Staff Considerations
For many hospital call centers, having enough space to operate efficiently is an issue at the best of times. During a pandemic, close working conditions become a matter of safety. One of the biggest advantages of 1Call’s call center system, is that it allows agents to work from home, keeping operators safe and making the space otherwise taken up by an on-site call center available for other uses.
A Midwestern hospital was faced with the issue of needing to expand, but not wanting to reconstruct their facilities. The hospital call center manager commented, “One of the biggest issues for us is that they built this hospital not knowing it would expand as fast as it did. We have a huge space issue here.”
She continued, “When we were looking at software for our call center, one of the things we wanted was to be able to have our operators work from home. Our space is just so tight in all of our facilities. We have transcriptionists that work from home, so they actually started this whole process.” The hospital selected the 1Call system for their call center because of its work from home capabilities.
Before making the final decision to set up a work from home environment, the hospital did look into other possibilities. “We had options of moving to other locations, but because there was only someone there during the day, the staff felt unsafe. We also looked at another one of our facilities, but that location couldn’t handle the call volume,” said the manager.
It wasn’t an overnight decision, but after careful consideration, it was determined that working from home would be the best, and safest, option for the operators, especially during the night hours.
Selecting the Right Staff
Not all operators were given the opportunity to work from home. “It takes a certain type of person to do this, and we needed to determine who would be able to do this, and who wouldn’t. We were looking for quality staff.”
Before deciding who would be offered the remote operator positions, each operator’s annual performance reviews for the past three years were analyzed. These evaluations included technical components, which looked at the operator’s job competencies, such as how well he or she could handle emergency calls, perform paging and overhead paging functions, his or her ability to handle calls from both physicians and customers, and his or her ability to differentiate between routine calls and emergency calls. The hospital also reviewed behavioral competencies, which included the operator’s commitment to service, quality of service, productivity, and teamwork skills. Each operator’s call volume, length of time spent on calls, and how often he or she logged in and out were also reviewed.
Great care was taken in the implementation of staff working remotely. After selecting the operators that would work from home, the manager and another member of her staff tested the remote operator stations for about a month. This helped them know exactly what the operators would be experiencing from home. The manager commented, “We wanted to make sure this would work. Once we knew that it would work, we gave the operators home computers to use and we were able to get them up and running. I gradually added more people (to the work from home pool).”
When on-site, the operators typically worked eight-hour shifts. After reviewing the various reports when the operators started working from home, including wait times and dropped calls, it was decided that longer shifts would better meet the hospital’s call handling needs. “We ended up creating ten-hour shifts, and each operator’s performance determined where they were placed. As a result, my strong employees work during the busiest times, from Monday through Thursday. The employees at the next level work Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and the ones that weren’t high performers ended up on the night shift.” The lunch shifts of the operators were also adjusted after finding that too many
operators weren’t handling calls during some of the busier times.